Posts Tagged ‘Westminster Abbey’

Sunday 26 October 1264: the legate’s farewell

Monday, October 27th, 2014

The final act of Guy Foulquois as papal legate, marking the complete failure of his attempts to assert his authority over the baronial government, came on 20 October. He repeated the formal excommunication which he had pronounced in August, denouncing the Provisions of Oxford. The authority of his denunciation was much diminished, however, because he had to pronounce the excommunication at Hesdin, in Flanders, rather than in England. He ordered bulls of excommunication and interdict to be published throughout France, but had been unable to secure their publication in England, where his authority was ignored. (Heidemann, register, 49-52; Foedera, I, I, 447-8)

Meanwhile, Simon de Montfort’s government, now again established in Westminster, continued its unavailing efforts to assert its authority over the royalist barons of the Marches and the north. Roger Mortimer and James of Audley were yet again ordered to come to the king’s court. Simon de Montfort’s son Henry, as warden of the Cinque Ports, was given the task of safeguarding merchandise, particularly wool, belonging to foreign merchants. The disorder in the country must have had an adverse effect on trade, which the government needed to counter. But the appointment also showed the increasingly prominent role being taken by de Montfort’s own family. (CPR 1258-66, 355)

The fine roll records the appointment of Ralph of Ash as sheriff of Devon. He was a local landowner (he held the manor now known as Rose Ash), so his appointment was in accordance with the reformers’ commitment to appointing local men as sheriffs, rather than the outsiders who had been blamed for exploiting the counties. Ash replaced Hugh Peverel of Sampford (another local man, from the village now named after his family, Sampford Peverell). Peverel had been appointed in the initial wave of new sheriffs put in place when the reforming barons took over the government in June 1264. There seems to be no particular explanation for the new appointment; Peverel continued to serve the baronial government, as castellan of Oxford, then as keeper of the peace for Devon. (CFR 1263-64, 220; CPR 1258-66, 387, 400)

Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, had agreed to pay £1,000 in order to take possession of the lands he had inherited. He now paid £100 of this enormous sum to the keepers of the works at Westminster — this payment helped to continue the construction of Westminster abbey, but it by-passed the usual procedures for Exchequer control of income and expenditure. The £1,000 fine had been recorded in the fine roll in July 1263, and Gilbert had taken formal possession of his inheritance in September 1264, when he came of age. (CPR 1258-66, 354; CFR 1262-63, 727)

Henry III from the BL

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Royal 20.A.II, f.9

This tinted drawing of Henry III with the facade of Westminster Abbey and bells, above a genealogical table, comes from a British Library manuscript, Royal 20 A II. The illustrations from the manuscript have been placed online, and in the public domain, by the BL Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

The bulk of this manuscript, from about 1307-27, consists of the Chronicle of Peter of Langtoft, preceded by tinted drawings of kings of England. The full text is now also available, thanks to the BL’s programme of digitising manuscripts – see  BL Digitised Manuscripts. This now includes such treats for 13th-century historians as another royal manuscript, Matthew Paris’s Historia Anglorum and Part III of the Chronica Majora.

 

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 November to Saturday 25 November 1257 (and a contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy)

Monday, November 26th, 2012

King Henry spent all this week at Guildford castle. There was no great press of business and he  had time to plan  extensive improvements  to what had become one of his favourite residences.  On 25 November he ordered the sheriff of Surrey to carry out a whole series of works, works which, as he said,  he  had explained in more detail to ‘Master John the mason’. The John here was of Beverley who was also the master mason at Westminster abbey. We can imagine the two men walking over the castle together and discussing what needed to be done.

 

The works commissioned were as follows:

 

A door and a fireplace.

 

A saucer and a larder under one roof

 

A building to store brushwood.

 

The paving of the chapels and chambers of king and queen.

 

A stable between the hall and kitchen.

 

The blocking of the outer and inner doors of the chamber under the gallery and the making of a new door to enter it under the gallery from the wardrobe.

 

A small building for  warming the queen’s food.

 

A passage from the chamber of Edward, the king’s son, to the kitchens and another from the chaplains’ chamber to the kitchens.

 

Repair of the almonry.

 

One notes, of course, Henry’s concern for Queen Eleanor and Edward and his son and heir.

 

In terms of fine roll business, one item this week (no.80 in the translation) shows Henry carefully establishing the status of an heiress’s inheritance so that (although this is not stated explicitly) he  could observe the stipulations of Magna Carta. The Charter had laid down that  the ‘relief’  (that is inheritance tax) for anyone entering a barony should be £100 whereas that for a knight’s fee should only be £5.  On 21 November Henry took the homage of Thomas of Aldham. Thomas had married an heiress, Isabella, but the nature of her inheritance was unclear. Henry, therefore, ordered the exchequer to inquire, by examining its rolls, whether the inheritance  was held by barony or by knight service.  The exchequer was then to levy a relief accordingly.

 

Richard Cassidy writes:

 

The names of Thomas of Aldham and Isabella should have rung a bell with the Chancery clerks. Only a few years before, they had featured in the fine rolls and the close rolls: Isabella’s first husband was Ralph de Haya, who died in 1254; early in 1255, Isabella had married Thomas without licence, despite having taken an oath not to marry without the king’s consent, and the lands of both Isabella and Thomas were taken into the king’s hand (Close Rolls 1254-56, 40). In April 1255, Isabella fined 200 marks for licence to marry whomever she chose. The fine was assigned to Geoffrey de Lusignan, and when Isabella paid the first instalment, the sheriffs of Sussex, Lincolnshire, Somerset and Kent were ordered to restore Thomas and Isabella’s lands. Thomas and Isabella had paid the full fine by January 1256 (CFR 1254-55, no. 332; Close Rolls 1254-56, 67-8, 263).

 

The clerks could also have checked the inquisitions post mortem. The query in 1257 concerned lands which Isabella had inherited from her sister Margery, who had been married to William of Etchingham. William had died in 1253, and the inquisition then recorded that William held half the manor of Chiselborough, near Yeovil. He held this half as part of Margery’s inheritance, and it was held of the king in chief by barony. The other half of the manor was held by Ralph de Haya, by reason of his wife, Isabella (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, I, no. 287). So the inquisition showed that the sisters shared a manor held as a barony. After Margery’s death Isabella was to hold the whole manor (among many other properties).

 

Margery’s executors, Robert le Poher and Osbert Huse, were given administration of her estate, and undertook to pay her debts to the king (E 368/33 m. 5d). The fine roll records that the sheriff and escheator of Somerset were ordered to give Thomas and Isabella full seisin of Margery’s lands. They seem to have exceeded their orders, by ejecting Robert le Poher from land in Chiselborough with which Margery had enfeoffed him (Close Rolls 1256-59, 213-4).

 

In the long run, Thomas and Isabella’s status as holders of a barony must have become plain. When Thomas died in 1275, the inquisition noted that he had held Chiselborough through Isabella, as her inheritance, and that she now held it of the king in chief by barony (Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, II, no. 193).

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 11 November to Saturday 17 November 1257

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

King Henry spent the first part of this week at Windsor, and then moved to Guildford before returning to Westminster at the end of the month.   In this week,  there is an entry on the fine rolls which foreshadows the terrible famine which was to sweep England in the summer of 1258.  By November, the failure of the 1257 harvest had long been clear. Grain prices were already more than double their normal level, and everyone knew that worse was to come.   The three serjeants in the garrison of  Windsor castle evidently complained to the king about the difficulties this was causing  them, all the more so because at this time a block had been placed on their wages.  This emerges in the concession the king made to them on Thursday 15 November after he arrived at  Guildford (no.60 in the translation and three from the bottom).

The concession was made on account of the ‘caritudo’ of the current year,  ‘caritudo’ here meaning  ‘dearth’, and hence ‘dearness’ in the sense of  high prices.  Because of this,  Henry said he would allow the serjeants a delay till the following Michalemas (or longer if he thought it expedient) in repaying a debt which they owed the exchequer. The debt was for 150s owed for a prest, that is a loan, made to the serjeants in advance of their wages when the king was in Gascony in 1253-1254.  The exchequer was also now to pay them the arrears of their wages which had been withheld because they had not paid the debt.  Each of the serjeants received a wage of 6d a day, where 1.5 pennies a day was the pay at this time of a labourer working on Westminster abbey.  Provided they could unlock their wages, the serjeants  would probably be alright in the famine.  Many people were much less well off.  By the spring of 1258, thousands who had flocked to London in search of food were dying of starvation.  In the counties the same situation prevailed. Indeed, so many were dying that the government allowed bodies to be buried without view of the coroners. The great famine provided the context for the political revolution of 1258.

 

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Friday 12 October to Saturday 20 October 1257

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Henry arrived at Westminster on Friday 12 October, having travelled up from Windsor. On the twelfth,  according to his custom, he fasted.  On the thirteenth he celebrated, for it was the greatest day in his religious year, the feast of the translation of his patron saint Edward the Confessor. How wonderful to celebrate it, with masses, candles, offerings at the Confessor’s shrine, and feasts for magnates and thousands of paupers, now the great new church he was building  in the Confessor’s honour was nearing completion in its eastern arm and transepts.   The new church dominated the Westminster scene, proclaiming to all the power of the Confessor and the protection he afforded to his greatest disciple.  Something of the celebrations of this day can be glimpsed in the orders Henry issued to prepare for the feast.  These included the procurement of  6000 fresh herrings, 2000 place, 5000 merlin, up to 20,000 lampreys.

John Maddicott, in his great book, The Origins of the English Parliament, p.472 suspected that Henry held a parliament at this time. He was right to do so for the Abingdon chronicle states this specifically. The meeting of parliament helps explain the large amount of fine roll business done in this week. Between 14 and 20 October, no less than thirty-three writs to initiate or further common law legal actions were purchased,  the highest score achieved, I think,  this year. As someone with connections with the Lake District, it is nice to see a writ purchased by  Juliana, widow of William of Derwentwater: no.1004 in the translation, and in the images below, thirty-two entries from the bottom (according to my count).

The week witnessed the consummation  of the one success of the summer’s campaign in Wales, although it was the result of the endeavours of  Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, rather than the king. On 18 October, the Welsh prince, Maredudd ap Rhys did homage to Henry, in Richard’s presence. Two days before,  Henry had rewarded Roger Bigod earl of Norfolk (probably for his good service in Wales) with a gift of ten great oaks to help build a chapel at Hamstead  Marshall in  Berkshire.  Hamstead  was a  manor of the Marshal family, which  Bigod had inherited through his mother on the death of the last Marshal earl. Next year, in 1258,  it was Roger Bigod, who was to lead the march on the king’s hall at Westminster, which precipitated the political revolution.

William of Gloucester and the Royal Mint, a contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy

Friday, October 12th, 2012

William of Gloucester had been the king’s goldsmith since 1252. His role in the royal mints and exchanges went back to May 1255, when he was granted one of the dies in the London mint. The dies of the London and Canterbury mints were traditionally farmed for a payment of 100s. a year each, which seems to have allowed the die-keepers to pocket a proportion of the profits of the coinage. In 1256, William was a member of a consortium of moneyers who took over the farm of all eight dies at the London mint.

In October 1257, as well as being appointed warden of the exchanges, William was granted a die at the Canterbury mint. He thus achieved a dominant position in control of the coinage, while continuing to receive commissions from the king as a goldsmith.

William retained his posts in the exchanges during the early years of the baronial reform period, but official inquiries into the management of the exchanges uncovered several dubious practices, suggesting that a margin of perhaps 3d. in the pound was being taken by the moneyers. This sum, the profits of the foundry, was then claimed for the crown, and the practice of farming out the dies was ended. Early in 1262, William was replaced as warden of the exchanges.

Despite this apparent disgrace, William continued to work as the king’s goldsmith until his death, late in 1268 or early in 1269. His executors’ account, in the 1272 pipe roll, includes such expenditures as £80 for painted panels for an altar at Westminster Abbey, and 20 marks for a painted canopy around the king’s bed.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 9 September to Saturday 15 September 1257

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

During this week, Henry began his journey home from Wales. His aim was to be at Westminster for the feast of his patron saint, Edward the Confessor on 13 October. The journey  disrupted fine roll business because none at all is recorded between 30 August, when Henry was at Deganwy, and 13 September when he was at Chester.  At Chester, however,  between the 13 and 15 September, there was a revival of the normal judicial business with half a dozen writs to initiate or further common law legal actions being purchased.  There was also one other highly profitable transaction, although it also pointed forward to the revolution of 1258.  At Chester, the king reached an agreement with the executors of the late bishop of Ely, William of Kilkenny.  In return,  amongst other things, for the promise of 2000 marks (£1333), he allowed them to have all the corn due to be harvested from the late bishop’s manors. A marginal note added later records what Henry did with this extremely valuable windfall. The executors gave 1000 marks of it to the Lord Edward at the Temple in London at the feast of St Martin 1257. This money was then used (although the note does not say so) to help finance Edward’s war in Wales, which was fair enough. It is the fate of the other 1000 which was extraordinary. This, the note indicates,  was given on 9 April 1258 to the queen’s uncle, Thomas of Savoy. The date is immensely significant because it was right at the start of the revolutionary parliament which was to strip the king of power.  News of the gift evidently  reverberated round the parliament for it soon reached an appalled Matthew Paris at St Albans.  For many it epitomised the king’s profligate generosity to his foreign relatives.  What made it worse was that Thomas was not even any longer a useful ally.  He had arrived in England on a litter, his health broken down and his ambitions in tatters, after  his capture and imprisonment by the citizens of Turin.  Although the Savoyards were not themselves attacked in 1258 (the fire was concentrated on the king’s Poitevin half brothers), the gift  to Thomas, at such a sensitive  time, must have contributed, in no small measure,  to the general dissatisfaction  expressed at the parliament with Henry’s rule. One final point. As far as can be seen,  the exchequer was never informed of the debt owed by the executors of the late bishop of Ely. It was dealt with entirely by the wardrobe. This is why the note of payment was made in the margin of the fine rolls. This by passing of the exchequer was something else the reformers intended to stop. 

For the entry, click here (and count down nine entries from the top).

Hilary Mantel and Henry III’s Elephant: A Contribution by Dr Richard Cassidy

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Henry III’s elephant keeps cropping up. I have just started reading Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel (her sequel to Wolf Hall). And Thomas Cromwell is thinking about monasteries, and relics:

‘In the year 1257, an elephant died in the Tower menagerie and was buried in a pit near the chapel. But the following year he was dug up and his remains sent to Westminster Abbey. Now, what did they want at Westminster Abbey, with the remains of an elephant? If not to carve a ton of relics out of him, and make his animal bones into the bones of saints?’

She has evidently done her homework. If only she had written earlier, we would have had a great intro for the Fine of the Month.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 29 April to Saturday 5 May 1257

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

For Henry III and Queen Eleanor, this was a week of tragedy. Around 3 May, their daughter Katherine died. She had been born in 1254 and was, so Matthew Paris tells us, ‘mute and incapable but very beautiful in face’. Henry was deeply attached to this his last child.  He had ordered a silver image of her to be put up on the shrine of Edward the Confessor at Westminster, when she was ill in 1256. A few days later he gave a present of  ‘a good robe’  to the queen’s  messenger  who arrived with the ‘good news’ of her recovery.  It is highly likely that Katherine died at Windsor, for there the queen had always been based with her children. If so, Henry was probably present since on or shortly before 29 April he had arrived at Windsor from Merton priory.  Curiously enough, he seems to have left immediately after Katherine’s demise for on 3 May he was at Chertsey and on 5 May back at Merton. He stayed there till 14 May, when he returned to Westminster both for Katherine’s burial in the Abbey, and the feast of Pentecost.  Whether the queen accompanied Henry to Merton is doubtful. According to Matthew Paris, she was utterly devastated by her daughter’s death, and wasted away in bed at Windsor, seemingly beyond the help of doctors.  Absence, however, did not weaken the bond between king and queen. When Henry himself fell ill towards the end of the month, worry over the queen and grief over his daughter were, according to Paris, contributory factors. When a decade later, Henry commissioned the splendid retable for the High Altar of Westminster abbey, one of the miracles depicted was Christ raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead.  Included in the scene, standing over his daughter, is Jairus himself, and behind Jairus, with her arms around him, is Jairus’s wife (the figure now largely lost). Is this how Henry and Eleanor stood grieving over Katherine? The scene on the Retable was deeply personal. Christ had not raised their daughter from the dead, but he could certainly raise her now into the life hereafter.

 For the retable, although not alas with a detailed shot of the miracle in question, click here.

After this tragedy, one scarcely has the heart to turn to fine rolls business, yet again this is an interesting week.   When he arrived at Windsor, Henry conceded easier terms on which the master and brethren of the hospital of Dover could repay their debts.  He did this ‘moved by charity’ and to sustain their work. Was this pious act a way of seeking God’s favour in Katherine’s illness?  Henry also took steps to see the queen got her financial cut from the money offered him in fines. The rolls continue to reveal the consequences of the campaign to get those with incomes of £15 a year and upwards either to take up knighthood, or, which was more the aim, to make fines in gold to be exempted from doing so.  In this week, the ex sheriff of Warwickshire-Leicestershire, William Mansel, had to make two fines of half a mark of gold because inquiries, paid for by the victims, had shown he  had wrongly returned two men as liable for knighthood,  when their incomes from land were actually  worth  only £5 and £7 10s. One cannot help feeling the sheriffs were being damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. On the one hand, they were being punished for carrying out the measure too rigorously and on the other for not doing it rigorously enough!

For the image of the membrane covering this week, click here. For Henry back at Merton, read next week’s blog.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!